GMO news related to the United States

18.08.2017

CRISPR Co-Discoverer: "I've Never Seen Science Move at the Pace It's Moving Now"

IN BRIEF: CRISPR co-discoverer Jennifer Doudna stressed the importance of using the technology with proper consideration at CrisprCon this week.

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“It was a convenience item for farmers,” observed organic farmer Tom Wiley at the convention, according to Wired. “And a profit center for corporations.” To combat genetically modified food’s perception problem, companies using CRISPR will have to make sure that the technology benefits the consumer, not just the production process.

The convention addressed CRISPR usage in many different fields: from the importance of ensuring it is used to address the widest range of medical conditions as possible, to the potentially damaging effects of gene drives on a delicate ecosystem.

Science is moving at a rapid pace, and CRISPR is too — but if we don’t carefully consider which applications are safe and valid, it could quickly cause as many problems as it solves.

18.08.2017

No dicamba in '18, Arkansas weed expert urges

MORRILTON -- A weed scientist said Thursday that he couldn't recommend that dicamba be allowed in the state next year after recent tests in at least four states show the herbicide's tendency to move off target and damage other crops and vegetation.

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BASF's Engenia, Monsanto's Xtendimax with VaporGrip and DuPont's FeXapan are three dicamba herbicides allowed this year by the federal Environmental Protection Agency for in-crop use, although Engenia is the only one of the three allowed in Arkansas this year by state regulators.

Another task force member, David Hundley, represents Ozark Mountain Poultry in Rogers. The company has a fast-growing poultry operation in Northeast Arkansas. "It's not just bad; it's toxic," Hundley, who manages grain production for Ozark Mountain Poultry, said of the dicamba herbicide at the June 20 Plant Board meeting.

The company has been a frequent and vocal opponent of Monsanto's dicamba-tolerant crops, saying they threaten the livelihoods of other farmers, limit those farmers' choices on what to plant and force others into planting the Monsanto crops. Ozark Mountain Poultry pays premium prices to farmers for soybeans that are not genetically modified organisms, as part of Ozark Mountain Poultry's business strategy of raising poultry that hasn't been raised on GMO feed. The company once bought 100 percent of its grain from Arkansas farmers; that percentage will be down to 50 percent next year, Hundley has said.

The Plant Board and state lawmakers began debate on a possible ban in mid-June as the number of those complaints of alleged dicamba damage approached 200.

17.08.2017

Collusion Or Coincidence? Records Show EPA Efforts To Slow Herbicide Review Came In Coordination With Monsanto

Newly released government email communications show a persistent effort by multiple officials within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to slow a separate federal agency’s safety review of Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide. Notably, the records demonstrate that the EPA efforts came at the behest of Monsanto, and that EPA officials were helpful enough to keep the chemical giant updated on their progress.

The communications, most of which were obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, show that it was early 2015 when the EPA and Monsanto began working in concert to stall a toxicology review that a unit tied to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was conducting on glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s branded Roundup herbicide products. The details revealed in the documents come as Monsanto is defending itself against lawsuits alleging that it has tried to cover up evidence of harm with its herbicides.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal public health agency that along with the CDC is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is charged with evaluating the potential adverse human health effects from exposures to hazardous substances in the environment. So it made sense for the ATSDR to take a look at glyphosate, which is widely used on U.S. farms, residential lawns and gardens, school playgrounds and golf courses. Glyphosate is widely used in food production and glyphosate residues have been found in testing of human urine.

14.08.2017

Cornell Diamondback moth is just another GM failure

Cornell University's plans to release genetically modified (GM) moths in New York State ignore existing evidence of failure, which shows the GM pests will damage the broccoli and cabbages they are supposed to protect.

Diamondback moth caterpillars are agricultural pests which eat brassica crops including cabbages and broccoli. Cornell plans multiple experimental releases of up to 30,000 GM male moths a week, over a two year period, at its New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES). The GM diamondback moths are produced by UK-headquartered company Oxitec, which was bought by Intrexon, Inc. for 160 million US dollars in 2015, despite its lack of revenue and commercial products.

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"Cornell's plans to release these GM moths ignore the only published scientific evidence about them, which shows that significant crop damage will occur" said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK.

09.08.2017

Monsanto Was Its Own Ghostwriter for Some Safety Reviews

Academic papers vindicating its Roundup herbicide were written with the help of its employees.

Monsanto Co. started an agricultural revolution with its “Roundup Ready” seeds, genetically modified to resist the effects of its blockbuster herbicide called Roundup. That ability to kill weeds while leaving desirable crops intact helped the company turn Roundup’s active ingredient, the chemical glyphosate, into one of the world’s most-used crop chemicals. When that heavy use raised health concerns, Monsanto noted that the herbicide’s safety had repeatedly been vetted by outsiders. But now there’s new evidence that Monsanto’s claims of rigorous scientific review are suspect.

Dozens of internal Monsanto emails, released on Aug. 1 by plaintiffs’ lawyers who are suing the company, reveal how Monsanto worked with an outside consulting firm to induce the scientific journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology to publish a purported “independent” review of Roundup’s health effects that appears to be anything but. The review, published along with four subpapers in a September 2016 special supplement, was aimed at rebutting the 2015 assessment by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. That finding by the cancer-research arm of the World Health Organization led California last month to list glyphosate as a known human carcinogen. It has also spurred more than 1,000 lawsuits in state and federal courts by plaintiffs who claim they contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma from Roundup exposure.

09.08.2017

The zoo beneath our feet: We’re only beginning to understand soil’s hidden world

The gardener has a long, touchy-feely relationship with the soil. As every good cultivator knows, you assess the earth by holding it. Is it dark and crumbly, is there an earthworm or beetle in there, is it moist, and when you smell it, are you getting that pleasant earthy aroma?

All these signs are reassuring, and have been through the ages, but they are mere indicators of something much greater and infinitely mysterious: a hidden universe beneath our feet.

This cosmos is only now revealing itself as a result of scientific discoveries based on better microscopic imaging and DNA analysis. There is much still to learn, but it boils down to this: Plants nurture a whole world of creatures in the soil that in return feed and protect the plants, including and especially trees. It is a subterranean community that includes worms, insects, mites, other arthropods you’ve never heard of, amoebas, and fellow protozoa. The dominant organisms are bacteria and fungi. All these players work together, sometimes by eating one another.

02.08.2017

Bayer-Monsanto Merger is a Bad Deal for Vegetable Farmers

OSA continues to join farmer, consumer, and rural advocacy organizations in urging the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to block the proposed merger between Bayer and Monsanto.

In a letter sent today to DOJ two dozen groups detailed the potential anticompetitive effects of the proposed $66 billion merger on the vegetable seed market. The proposed deal would join the world’s largest and fourth largest vegetable seed companies and would further consolidate the already highly concentrated vegetable seed industry (see Table 1). If this merger goes through, farmers will likely pay more for a diminished array of seed options. Vegetable seed prices have increased tremendously alongside mega-mergers in the vegetable seed industry (see Figure 2).

Today, the largest vegetable seed companies are vertically integrated firms that research and breed varieties, multiply and manufacture seeds, and distribute and market seeds to farmers. Only a few vegetable seed companies dominate the market for each commercial vegetable crop (see Figure 1), and these companies are primarily interested in a relatively narrow set of high-value vegetables.

01.08.2017

New 'Monsanto Papers' Add To Questions Of Regulatory Collusion, Scientific Mischief

The other shoe just dropped.

Four months after the publication of a batch of internal Monsanto Co. documents stirred international controversy, a new trove of company records was released early Tuesday, providing fresh fuel for a heated global debate over whether or not the agricultural chemical giant suppressed information about the potential dangers of its Roundup herbicide and relied on U.S. regulators for help.

More than 75 documents, including intriguing text messages and discussions about payments to scientists, were posted for public viewing early Tuesday morning by attorneys who are suing Monsanto on behalf of people alleging Roundup caused them or their family members to become ill with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. The attorneys posted the documents, which total more than 700 pages, on the website for the law firm Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman, one of many firms representing thousands of plaintiffs who are pursuing claims against Monsanto. More than 100 of those lawsuits have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation in federal court in San Francisco, while other similar lawsuits are pending in state courts in Missouri, Delaware, Arizona and elsewhere. The documents, which were obtained through court-ordered discovery in the litigation, are also available as part of a long list of Roundup court case documents compiled by the consumer group I work for, U.S. Right to Know.

23.07.2017

Class lawsuit takes aim at dicamba producers, accuses Monsanto reps of condoning illegal spraying

As suspected drift from dicamba took a toll on farmers the past two growing seasons, Monsanto — the Creve Coeur-based agribusiness company that helped give the herbicide newfound prominence with its introduction of dicamba-tolerant crop varieties — publicly urged growers not to spray illegal kinds of the product while new formulations supposedly less prone to drift waited for regulatory approval.

But a class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in St. Louis accuses company sales representatives of secretly giving farmers assurances that using unauthorized or “off-label” spray varieties would be all right.

“This was Monsanto’s real plan: publicly appear as if it were complying, while allowing its seed representatives to tell farmers the opposite in person,” the suit alleges, based on farmer testimony. “Their sales pitch: assure purchasers that off-label and illegal uses of dicamba would ‘be just fine.’”

20.07.2017

To save rural Iowa, we must end Monsanto’s monopoly

Iowa farmers face a crisis. Crop prices have fallen by more than 50 percent since 2013, with no end in sight. At the same time, farmers hold more debt and possess fewer capital reserves to fall back on. In fact, farmers’ debt levels are almost as high as they were prior to the farm crisis of the mid-1980s.

Meanwhile, a wave of mergers among the world’s agricultural giants is upending the markets for seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. If approved, the proposed merger would result in just two companies — Monsanto-Bayer and Dow-DuPont — controlling about three-quarters of the U.S. corn seed market. The power that these corporations would hold in the seed market is unprecedented.

Farmers are already being squeezed. The price of corn seed has more than doubled in the past 10 years — from $51 per acre in 2006 to $102 in 2015 — as a result of similar consolidation, including Monsanto’s purchases of DeKalb and Cargill's international seed business. If the Monsanto-Bayer merger is permitted, this problem will only intensify, further limiting farmers’ choices and making the products they need even more expensive.